The recent decision to defer the loading of MOX fuel at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa could influence the UK government’s decision on whether to grant an operating licence to BNFL’s Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP). BNFL had warned last September that it relied on Japanese MOX orders to justify opening the £462 million facility. However recent contracts with OKG of Sweden and E.ON of Germany (see NEI June 2001, p12) have brought the plant on the verge of the financial break-even point.
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) confirmed it would take the Kariwa referendum into consideration. The plant was completed five years ago but has still not been given clearance by the environment minister, Michael Meacher. Following the recent re-election of the Labour government, the DETR no longer exists and responsibility for the decision on SMP falls to the new Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Mr Meacher remains as minister for the environment, and DEFRA is headed by Margaret Beckett.
BNFL are confident that the Japanese move is only a delay in initial loading of MOX, and would not alter the eventual size of the country’s MOX demand. The Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has said that the MOX programme will continue.